Transformation Through Gratitude


Last week the focus of my post was on grief and loss.  The motivation in writing on the topic was not only my own issues, but the fact that there were many people surrounding me that I was aware of who were grieving some type of loss.  Never in my wildest dreams did I fathom that such a horrific event would take place hours before my post was published; the terror attacks in Paris, France!  Talk about grief and loss in gargantuan proportions, not only on a national level, but a world that was left shattered in shock and mourning.  A world waking up to the stark reality that ISIS is not just a problem in the middle east, but that ISIS has waged war on the West, and has threatened to do the same to Washington D.C. as it did to Paris.

Consequently, how are we to make sense of all of this?  Grief and loss are overwhelming.  The threats of attacks from ISIS can make us fearful and filled with anxiety.  Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, and partying, to try to forget their fears and worries.  Some turn to sports, exercise, gaming, or some kind of addiction to lose themselves in.  Some to busyness and work.  I tried the busyness route, and it isn’t a quick fix.  I found that my only rescue is God. I can only turn to God, for I am not in control, but He is. Nothing else truly takes away the grief, the fears, the sadness.  He is the only one who can give me direction, take away my fear, and give me peace, in the midst of a storm.  One of my favorite verses is Deuteronomy 3:22 “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”   God is saying that I need not be afraid, that He, Himself will fight for me.  What comfort that gives me.  Another favorite is John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you:  my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  These are Jesus’ words to His disciples and to us, as well.  He desires to give us His peace, in the midst of the chaos that is going on in the world today.  We can only have that peace by keeping our eyes on Him.  And by seeing our role of praying for our world leaders that they will rely on God to direct them in the decisions that they make on the world stage.  

Amazing transformations can occur when we choose to focus on our blessings instead of our losses.  To focus on the positives instead of the negatives.  To have joy for what the Lord has done for us, instead of sadness for what He has not done.  Gratitude is a gift that not only uplifts our own spirits, but the spirits of those around us, and gives joy and encouragement to all.  Don’t we all need some of that right now?

In the blog, “Inspired by Familia”, Mari states I truly believe that gratitude can be contagious, so let’s shake off the whiney and grumpy mood we can get in, and for the next 21 days become beauty seekers. Let’s train our heart and mind to look for beauty that surrounds us, the big and the small moments.  My hope is that you will find beauty and blessings in the mundane, in the beautiful, in the ugly, as you: change diapers, wash dishes, sit in holiday traffic, stir the pot of soup, look into your loved one’s eyes, hold your child in your arms…We are constantly surrounded by small miracles.  Let’s open our eyes and embrace them.  We can discover joy when we discover gratitude.”  Joy, that is, in your child’s sleepy smile, even in the midst of a world torn with killing and hatred.  Joy, of a small hand in yours, instead of focusing on the fears.  Joy in seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

Mari has 21 Days of Gratitude Prompts that you can use with your family.  You can stop, reflect, and engage in a moment of thankfulness one day during the month using the prompts and actually double up on some of them, since we are getting a late start.   It can be big or small moments that you have of gratitude.  You could let your kids snap a photo or draw a picture that goes along with the prompt.  The kids could write in a journal or type on a computer. They could write on a paper and make it into a card.  Make it as simple or as creative as you like.

21 Days of Gratitude Prompts

Thankful for:

  • Little hands
  • Smiles
  • This moment with________
  • Our health because……….
  • For my spouse
  • For my child___________
  • For my child’s ability to………..
  • For my spouse’s desire to………
  • Today because……….
  • My spouse’s help with………
  • What am I taking for granted?
  • Who am I taking for granted?
  • I appreciate________for______.
  • I am proud of myself for……..
  • I am proud of _____ for ………
  • I conquered the fear of________.
  • I love____about my home.
  • My car is awesome because……
  • _______because it’s beautiful
  • For my child’s_____________.
  • My favorite memory of__________is…………..

You know, in the culture that we live in, particularly here around Washington, DC, everything is rush, rush, rush.  Hurry, hurry, hurry.  When I was teaching, I felt like I got on a treadmill in the middle of August and didn’t get off until the middle of June.  Work was never-ending.  I could never get it all done, and then I had my home-life and my church-life on top of that.  When life is lived on the fast-lane, gratitude can fly right out the window.  You are living on the fly, rushing here and there, often like a chicken with its head cut off.  You do what you have to do to get by.  Life is set on survival mode.  There is no space left in the brain to process the qualities of gratitude.  Ann Voskamp makes a candid statement:  “Hurry always empties the soul.”    My goodness!  Hurry empties the soul!! You mean when I hurry I don’t have time to think about what I have to be thankful for?  Nope.  When I am hurrying do I have time to spend with God?  Not much.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states:  “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Living with grace in the imperfect is how we find gratitude.” states Ann Voskamp.  “That wobbly table where we gather together with our people is a gift, a holy place to break bread. The old kitchen where we prepare the meals in a stove older than we are is still a gift that will nourish and bless our family.  Those dog smudges, the wet and slimy noses, and joyfully wagging tails waiting on the other side, a gift to remind us to be joyful in all things.  The smashed sofa cushions that don’t seem to improve with fluffing are evidence that this place, this home is a gift because it is lived in and loved on.  Grace grows gratitude so we can see the beauty of what we already have- a home that is a sanctuary, not a showplace.”

What lovely sentiments from the pen of Ann.  God has given her eyes to see the beauty of the things that she has right in front of her, even if they are old and worn.  They have been lovingly used and lived in by her family, so they are something to be grateful for, because they have served a high and holy purpose of raising a family and nurturing a family.  Those are purposes that the highest of praise and gratitude should be extended to.  Even to the most loyal member of the family, the dog, whose wet nose and wagging tail always exude joy.  I know that I have the utmost gratitude this November for my dog, Bella, who has given me such joy and companionship.

Melissa Michaels tried to instill in her kids an attitude shift by practicing the habit of gratitude at home.  She found 3 practical ways to transform attitudes in each room of her house.

  1. Gratitude in the Kitchen                                                                                                                                                                           The kitchen has traditionally been considered the area where nurturing takes place, so as the family prepares food, and cleans up, they can be reminded that the joy and care that they show in taking care of the kitchen that God has provided will establish an atmosphere of gratitude, grace, and love.
  2. Thankfulness in the Dining Room                                                                                                                         See the dining room table as a sacred space to bless your loved ones.  Clear off all of the school supplies you have used for homework, putting all of the clutter away.  Then get a big soapy rag and wipe the table clean.  Kids could help make a seasonal centerpiece.  Arrange candles to set the mood as everyone sits down.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just have fun with it every night.  Take a moment to look at each face around the table and thank God for them.
  3. Grace in the Living Room                                                                                                                                       Practice a new habit of looking for opportunities to show God’s love to people right there in your living room.  At the end of the day when everyone is tired, offer grace instead of griping.  Say a prayer of gratitude for the mess makers in your home and if necessary, invest in training and correction at a more productive time.     “Dear Lord, thank you for this home and for Your precious Word upon which I can build a solid and beautiful sanctuary for my family.  May gratefulness be ever-present in my heart and home to the glory of Your Name.  Amen.

Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

In a very sweet and poignant moment on the news a reporter taped a French father  explaining  to his young son why he was putting flowers on display among the array of hundreds of others that could be seen along the street.  He stated that it was a way of showing gratitude for those who lost their lives, and that all of the flowers showing thankfulness and love was more powerful than the hatred of the evil men who were committing the killing.  The beauty of this scenario was that the father was modeling for his son the art of having gratitude for lives that he didn’t even know, yet he was bestowing an act of love and thankfulness for them.  Teaching our children to have gratitude is in itself making our children more tender-hearted and sensitive to the needs of others  and gives them the gift of joy in their lives.  In this world where kids are bombarded with materialism, I am finding that less is really better.  

Here are some resources that I hope you will find beneficial.

21 Days of Gratitude for Families

70 Ways to Teach Your Kids Gratitude

Teaching Kids Gratitude

May God keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

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